Getting an opportunity to play in Mumbai was always going to be special, so Sunil called in a favour to get a member to sign me in at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club. I had two options, play with low HC golfers over the weekend, or higher HC folks during the week. Needless, to say jumped for the first available opportunity. Less than 24 hrs after landing in Mumbai, I was changing into my golf shoes at BPGC. !! I rented some clubs, and had no clue how good these would be. I was grouped with Shailesh, Kalpesh and Arpita – all playing off 24. Shailesh & I teamed up against the husband-wife for a bet of ‘toast-butter’. My caddie for the day was Balu – who has a HC of 4. Needless to say, playing with a caddie is a new experience.
At about 2:30 pm, as the front holes were busy, we started off the back 9. Here is what I recollect of it.
- 10th (par 3, 140y). I have never been so nervous. Not sure of the reason, but I guess having 7 people watch a ‘foreign’ player can be an experience. With the flag up, the hole did not look 140y. I had a 8 iron. But one of the caddies saw it, and whispered…’ Pitcher’. So changed to a Pitcher and hit a textbook shot to see the ball land about 15 foot past the flag on the green. Two putted from there to have a par. The others did a par, bogie, bogie. Great opening. However, this could also mean the jinx of the opening hole may come to bite me.
- 11th (Par 4, 378y) We crossed the road, as the traffic stopped to see the cast of golfers and caddies slowly make their way to the other side. Decent looking hole. With hazards on the left of the fairway. As I tee-ed up, I realised, I was still nervous! Pulled out my driver. Mighty heave and pulled it to just clear the hazards and make it to the fairway. Needed another 200y, so Balu handed me the 4 hybrid. While I stood upto the ball, the quirkiness of the BPGC course presented itself. I could see the flag straight ahead, but also could see a few folks standing to the right of the fairway looking towards me. So I aimed at the flag and swung it. As the cardinal rule of golf, if you aim to miss anything, the ball will decide to fly towards it. So I put a big slice on it and it nearly missed them and OOBed. As I walked up to where they stood, I realised they were standing on the tee box for the 12th. The 11th and 12th hole criss-crosses each other. It was the first of many. Dropped a ball and wedged onto the greens and 2 putted. By this time I realised another thing.. The greens are blazing fast. The grass looks different in this part of the world and is moved very closely. Also, my putter was pretty ordinary and was toe balanced, so I would need to close it at impact.
- 12th (P4, 312y) Slight dogleg left. I teeded off from the spot where I was searching for my ball a few mins ago. Again driver, this time with sliced the ball. I thought I OOBed on the right hand side. However, Balu found the ball which had ricochet off the tree to just inside the OOB line and was in long grass. 8 iron, but topped it, but it ran to the greens. 3 putted from there.
- 13th (P3, 195y) Long par 3. By this time, I was convinced that I could not control that driver, so swapped it for a 5 iron. Hit it well to land between the two greenside bunkers on the right. Sand wedge to the edge (should have gotten onto the green), and then two putted for bogie. I had started to lose my will to live
- 14th (P4, 443y) No recollection except that I continued to tee off the 5 iron. I was getting good distance as my 5iron was nearly the same as Shailesh Burner 3 wood and Kalpesh’s R9 driver. However, both of them were very accurate with their direction, while my 5 iron was starting right and staying a bit right (but not too much). Arpita was playing off the ladies and her drives were nearly having the same result as us from the back tees.
- 15th(P4, 394y) Quick stop for chai-pani. By now Balu was convinced that the driver was no good and would only hand over the 5 iron. I got to the green in 2. Then to my horror, a bird took fancy of my ball and sat down pretty close to it. Balu ran towards the green to shoo it away. This was a sight to behold and laugh. I was getting into the swing of having a decent long game, lax control of the wedge and once on the green, the putter and the fast green was proving to be my undoing. I was now 3 putting or worse.
- 16th (P5, 476y). We crossed the road again to the main course. The traffic was getting busier. This time we had a bus and few autos looking at this strange cast of people walking across the road. Bless India. Another quirky bit. The driving range and the 16th share the fairway. So as we walked down, we had to be vary of people trying to hit us!!. I wonder what the H&S folks would say about it. But yeh hai bambai meri jaan, we optimise everything. Not sure what I scored, was not worth remembering.
- 17th(P3, 207y) An easy par 3. Hit my 5 iron (I was getting used to the 5i – seemed to be the only good club) slightly right. The ball ricochet off the boundary wall, to get close to the greenside bunker. With only about 10 feet width of bunker to avoid, I wedged myself straight into it. Sods law at work again. Out of the bunker and then 3 putt again!!!
- 18th(P5, 398y). This hole did not feel like a 398, more like 500y. Hit my 5i, followed by a decent 2nd shot that got me to close to the green. Third on the green and two putt for a bogie.
- Then we got a chai-pani break. The caddies went away, while I took an opportunity to click a few pics. I had just about run thru my 2 litre water bottle. The heat had started to level off, but had taken a bit of toll
- 1st (P5, 476y) We swapped teams, with Kalpesh and me teamed up. This is a relatively straight forward hole. So it was imperative that I would mess it up. Hit my fav 5 iron, to the right of the fairway into the thin line of trees. My second shot was going to be difficult as I was behind some trees. Balu said 4 hybrid, but I chose to go with the 5 iron. Murphy’s law played out, so hit a tree and OOBed. Dropped a ball and hit another tree. 3rd shot with a 9 iron into the greenside bunker. Suddenly the golf course felt a very lonely place. As I walked towards the green, Arpita added to my misery with the kind words.. ‘ Oh BTW, I birdied the hole’. Got out of the bunker in one and then 2 putted. At this point I had stopped counting and caring.
- 2nd(P3, 160y) A beautiful and tough P3. Bunkers to the left and front, big water hazard in front. Also criss-cross with another hole. Hit a 5 iron to the right of the green. Then wedged it to the green only to see the ball run off to the other side of the green. Wedge – putt from there for bogie.
- 3rd (P4, 289y) My 5 iron started right and stayed right and did a splash down into the big nulla on the right hand side. Dropped the ball, hit an 8 iron, to the back of the green about 10 feet from the flag. Then chip-putt for a bogie.
- 4th(P5, 476y, Stroke 1). This is a great hole. A dogleg right, with a water hazard all along the curve. For a change, I topped my 5 iron. It nearly missed killing my caddie who was standing on the edge of the fairway, but ran a decent distance. 2nd shot with a hybrid was a beauty. As I walked up, Kalpesh explained the approach, apparently two trees and a bunker guard the hole on the right hand side. I could see only one. Balu said 8 iron. I was not very confident and wanted to go with a 7 esp since I did not know how big the second tree would be. I took his advice, and hit a beauty, only to see the ball clip the far edge of the tee and fall into the greenside bunker. If only I had another 5 yards, I would have been set up for a birdie putt. Got out of the bunker and 2 putted.. damn!! I had given up on the putter for the day.
- 5th (P4 358y) The tee box is elevated. As I stood there, waiting for the others to tee off. I could see BEST buses and Autos jostling for space with a bullock cart and a dog while trying to avoid the pillars of the new monorail. The gulf between the two worlds meant, I could have been playing in a different country. Anyways, I had enough of the inability to drive, so I begged asked Kalpesh if I could use his TaylorMade R9. He agreed. Having never used a R9, I was not sure what I could do with it. The hole is a slight dogleg left, so I aimed for it to reach the bend. I let the driver rip. I had underestimated the driver. The ball kept right, bounced off the boundary wall and stopped about 25 yards in front of Shailesh’s ball. I was back in business. 9 iron onto the greenside bunker. Chipped out and putted for a PAR!! My only second par of the day.
- 6th (P3, 186y) Another pit stop for chai-pani. I had run out of water, so a refill with Nimbooz was called for. This is a good hole that has water all along the left side of the fairway & front of the green, and a greenside bunker on the right. It also criss-crosses another hole, so once again, have to wait for the other golfers to tee off. Back to my 5 iron to see it land on the opposite side of the greenside bunker. Chipped across only to see the ball run across the green onto the other side. Chipped back and putted for a bogie. I was starting to enjoy this
- 7th (P4, 347y). Again borrowed the driver from Kalpesh. As a generous host, now he was advising me to go for a stronger grip or closing the face to eliminate the slice. It is a sharp dogleg right at 250y. Again ripped the driver, to see it sail past the dogleg and settle short of a fairway bunker. Balu handed me the 8 iron, as I took stance, he pointed out that as the submerged sprinkler would affect how I stand, I qualify for a free drop. I turned down the offer, pulled my 8 iron to see the ball sail into the neighbouring building. As I dropped the ball, Balu muttered ‘ I told you so’. 8 iron again, and to the back of the green. 3 putt from there to save face.
- 8th (P3, 189y) Slight downhill, this hole definitely did not look 189. So when Balu gave me the 5 iron, I swapped it for a 6. As I watched the others tee off, Balu came back and insisted on the 5. So swapped back to 5. Good advice, as my tee ended just short of the green on the right hand side. Should have been an easy up and down, but mucked up again. Chip and 3 putt for a double again. I wanted to throw the putter in the nearest skip.
- 9th (P4, 443y) With Kalpesh and me staring at defeat, we went for ‘double or quits’. So with everything to play for, I pulled the R9 only to see the ball hit a tree and stop in the middle of the next fairway. Balu was unfrazed. As we walked up, his advice was to play down the other fairway and get close to the green. My 2nd shot off hybrid went as a rocket, followed it with another hybrid to get back to the middle of my fairway. A pitcher to the centre of the green meant I was already looking at bogie or worse. The dreaded putter came out and saw me double bogie the last hole.
What a game. I carded a 96 on the par 70 course. Not bad to finish +2 on a strange course with a average set of clubs. This includes the 4 balls that ended OOB. I must admit there were generous amount of ‘concedes’, so I am guessing, I would be closer to 100… shux.
But, what an experience. It was a massive tick in the box for me. Great people to play with and spend the day. I also realised how much I depend on my own set of clubs. Given an opportunity, I will definitely play BPGC again.